Companies team on ubiquitous, secure mobile/wireless system

Users of notebooks and other mobile data devices could benefit from a new chip-card based system offering ubiquitous, secure connectivity between mobile and wireless LAN (WLAN) networks.

French telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel SA, smart-card maker Gemplus International SA and Norwegian software vendor Birdstep Technology ASA, agreed Tuesday to jointly develop a system that will allow portable device users to roam easily and securely between WLAN networks and a range of cellular networks, including those based on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technologies.

The new system to be developed by the companies comes in response to growing user demands for greater simplicity and security in wireless roaming, especially as the number of WLAN hotspots proliferate and new 3G (third-generation) networks come online, according to Gemplus spokeswoman Jane Strachey.

"Under the agreement, the three partners will package their individual areas of expertise into a smart card-based product that provides seamless and secure wireless connectivity," Strachey said.

While Alcatel will contribute radio access technology, Gemplus will provide its smart card-based authentication system. Birdstep brings its mobile IP (Internet Protocol) client software to the table.

The three companies plan to sell the new system within the coming months to mobile operators and wireless companies that, in turn, will sell the service to their customers in both GSM and CDMA markets, according to Strachey. She provided no price points for end users.

The planned new system requires users to install the client software on their notebook computers or PDAs (personal digital assistants). Notebook users must insert a PC card with integrated SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) functionality. For PDAs, the companies plan to offer SIM functionality in the form of a USB (Universal Serial Bus) key that can be plugged into the device.

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